Firaxis' take on the XCOM franchise is the blending of two different genres connected by an omnipresent alien threat. While we've seen much of the tactical expression of the resistance against Advent before today, the studio finally revealed the strategy layer at Gamescom.
In Enemy Unknown, humanity had an established base, with finite underground space to ramp up engineering, research, communications, and more. With humanity on the run in the mobile Avenger base, things have changed drastically.
While the core mechanics of an ever-expanding base haven't changed, the mechanism by which players will increase their capacity has. The Avenger base is a hive of unusable, damaged rooms. In order to build new facilities, you'll need to clear those out.
Of course, without the support of world governments, you won't be spending cash. You'll spend resources, Intel, and precious time to accomplish your tasks.
Intel is used to establish new segments of the Avenger, create proving grounds for ammunition explosives and armor, and develop specialist training to bypass the Rookie rank and specify a class for new recruits (instead of leaving it up to chance). You'll also spend Intel to make contact with additional resistance cells as you work to discover the locations of hidden alien bases. The other cost is time. Humanity has already lost, and XCOM must mobilize quickly.
Engineering, research, and other timed initiatives can now have non-combat personnel assigned to them. These people all have names and modify rooms to which they are assigned in a variety of ways, like speeding up research or helping wounded soldiers heal faster. All soldiers and VIPs (named characters that you can rescue on missions) can now be customized outside of the game and saved. The cosmetic options have deepened significantly, with scars, tattoos, and even mannerisms that affect how a soldier carries him or herself on the battlefield.
Enemy Unknown players will remember that strategy begins with choosing a base of operations. Each continent in that game provided a different bonus.
Again, the situation in XCOM 2 has changed. The Avenger will spawn randomly on the map. On each continent, there are a number of different territories, but the paths between them is also different in each game. Imagine a Risk map with bordered territories in flux every time you played, and you'll get the idea.
Bonuses are triggered once you've made contact with resistance cells in all the territories, liberated them, and planted a radio relay on the continent. Senior producer Garth DeAngelis tells us that Firaxis wants XCOM 2 to be much less predictable than its predecessor. The team is looking to keep players on their toes and short-circuit go-to strategies (like the rush for satellite coverage in Enemy Unknown).
Part of that is that aliens now have randomized short-term goals. Players will win XCOM 2 by expanding the resistance network and obliterating hidden alien bases. But while that is going on, Advent isn't standing still. The aliens have a variety of plots in motion, and players will need to uncover and thwart them.
Multiplayer will return for XCOM 2, and we're told it will play largely the same as it did in Enemy Unknown. The result is a more expansive version of the miniature-game play mode that pits two player squads of humans and aliens against one another.
We won't have long to send our friends and families into harm's way in XCOM 2, thankfully. The game is slated for launch in November for PC, Mac, and Linux.